Xylella has been a game-changer when it comes to plant passporting and the need to document plant orders. All plants on the EU ‘host list’ for Xylella must be officially inspected and then move only with a plant passport. We might as well get used to this, because it is very likely that all plants for planting will need plant passports when the new EU Plant Health policy is implemented. And before you complain about any ‘extra paperwork’, you should be aware that this is something which the HTA lobbied for. Ultimately it will go a long way to better protecting our plant trade and whole supply chain.

There is some confusion about plant passports and how they work, so let’s start from the beginning. If you’re based in the United Kingdom and you’re moving plants or plant products to other businesses in the EU (including within the UK) that can host quarantine pests and diseases, they may need plant passports. They may also need plant passports for movement in Protected Zones. Any plant on the Xylella host list requires a plant passport.

Do I need to issue Plant Passports?

You can issue plant passports yourself, but you must be authorised by the relevant Government body. In England and Wales this is the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). In Scotland it is the Scottish Executive Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SERPID) Horticulture and Marketing Unit. In Northern Ireland it is the Quality Assurance Branch. Contact details can be found via www.gov.uk, alongside information about the plant passporting requirements for different types of plant material.

In most cases you do not need to issue plant passports or keep records of sales to the final consumer. As an example, a garden centre or a landscaper receiving plants requiring plant passports will need to keep a record of the plant passports they receive. At present they do not have to issue a plant passport to their customer or keep a record of that customer.

Being authorised to issue plant passports shows that the business has been officially inspected by the plant health authority. Should a plant health problem occur in the trade of passported plants, the registration number included on the passport should allow for traceability from the place of origin of the plant. After you apply for authorisation, the relevant plant health authority will inspect your site. They’ll do this between two and four times per year, depending on your business’s risk to plant health. This is a chargeable service.

What actually is a Plant passport?

Under the current rules, the plant passport may be included on accompanying paperwork. This requirement may well change in the future, so that it is a stand-alone document. The following details must be included on plant passports:

  • the phrase ‘EU Plant Passport’
  • ‘UK’ to show that the plants were grown in the UK or imported into the UK
  • ‘EW’ (this is the code for APHA applicable in England and Wales)
  • the unique APHA registration number and an individual serial, week, batch or invoice number
  • the botanical name of the plant or plants
  • the quantity in the consignment
  • the letters ‘ZP’ and a protected zone code if you’re moving consignments in EU protected zones
  • the letters ‘RP’ if it’s a replacement plant passport
  • the country of origin of the consignment, if it’s originally come from a non-EU country

What Plant Passport records do I need to keep?

If you are trading commercially in plants and plant products, you must keep records of the following for one year: all plant passports that you issue or receive; a record of any plant propagating material you buy or sell; a record of any mixing you did during packaging, storage, transport or delivery.

Your records must allow the Plant Health Authority to investigate any pest or disease outbreaks. If a supplier sends you a plant passport in the form of a label, you must keep the label. If this is impossible, eg because the label is glued to a tray, write the details into a manual or save them in a file on your computer.

As part of the EU emergency measures for Xylella fastidiosa, records of plant passports accompanying the high priority hosts of the disease (Coffea, Lavandula dentata, Nerium oleander, Olea europaea, Polygala myrtifolia and Prunus dulcis) must be kept for three years.

After lobbying from the HTA and the UK government last year, the EU has enacted an additional requirement to help to combat the threat from Xylella fastidiosa. The new measure, in force from 1 March 2018, means that in order to be plant passported, high priority hosts of the disease (listed above) must come from a site where the official inspection includes systematic testing using a prescribed sampling procedure.

The information in this article will be published on the HTA website with live links to the official government sites and contact details.